By Stephenie Craig, Journey Bravely
Have you ever gone through a day only to realize you interacted with people and don’t remember it? Perhaps you were glazed over as you went through the grocery store checkout or you nodded and talked to your kids while looking at your phone not really paying attention. Or, have you ever gotten to the end of a day and realized you were not a great version of yourself at some point during the day? Maybe you were short with a server at a restaurant or you took out your frustration on someone else. In the midst of busy, hectic lives, it’s easy to be lulled into believing many of your daily human interactions don’t matter. However, there are no throwaway human interactions. You are either leaving people better or worse than you found them based on how you engage.
I was driving through a business recently and was struck by the friendly, kind, and enjoyable nature of the drive through employee. We chatted at the window and I drove away having a great conversation with my kids about how positive it is to interact with someone who cares about their job. The simple engagement brought joy and important conversation to our day. On the other hand, I was in a different store and was treated poorly by an employee. The interaction left me feeling angry, discouraged, and like I would avoid returning to the store.
How you treat people matters. Your engagement has the power to shape how people view themselves and the world. How do you want people to feel when they have spent time with you? Would you like them to say they feel small, belittled, ignored, unimportant and unvalued? Or, would you like them to say they feel encouraged, seen, understood, and valued?
5 Ways to Leave People Better Than You Found Them
1. Listen more than you talk. Most people spend more time talking about themselves than they do listening to others. You don’t always need to fill the space with your words. Try slowing down and intentionally leaving space for others to speak. Then listen intently to what they are saying and to the feeling and meaning behind what they are saying.
2. Ask meaningful questions and listen carefully to the answers. Go beyond questions like “What do you do?” and try questions like, “What made you want to go into that field?” or “What feels most meaningful to you about your work?” Ask open ended questions rather than yes/no questions. Listen with interest to the answer and then ask follow up questions. Allow yourself to become truly interested in the other person.
3. Put away distractions and be fully present in the moment. Put the phone away, turn off the screen, stop scanning the room for the more exciting, popular person you’d like to engage. Make eye contact and pay attention fully.
4. Notice the good and give genuine compliments. Criticism is cheap. Genuine compliments are valuable. All people have positive qualities. Try noticing specific positive attributes and speaking them kindly to the person. We all want others to see the good in us.
5. Treat others as though they are as important or more important than yourself. Take a moment to reflect on ways others have treated you that left you feeling valued and seen and important. Now practice doing those things for as many people in your path as you can. Send a thoughtful text or note, hold a door, do something kind without being asked, give generous encouragement.
Leaving others better than you found them can feel easier when the people look like you, talk like you, dress like you, have similar beliefs, and don’t get on your nerves. However, all people are human and worthy of being treated with dignity and kindness. The deeper work is in the practice of leaving people better than you found them when they are difficult for you in some way. This is certainly more work for you, however, it leaves both your soul and the world around you more beautiful. As you walk along your journey of leaving people better than you found them, connect with us for counseling and coaching at www.journeybravely.com.